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History of the Fool's Fest and First 1990 Fool's Fest Dawn Dance Flyers (below)
The flyer below was designed, after approval by the Chattahoochee Country Dancers Fool's Fest committee (chaired by new contra dancer Sid Hetzler) by Sid at the LaFayette (GA) print Shop, where the owner had just purchased a new graphics editing program and was pleased that he could make the title line into an arch. Now fancy graphics programs make that seem commonplace. The first flyer was printed in a light green color using images from the clip art file the printer had purchased. We still use some of the characters from that first flyer. The budget was so limited that Sid paid personally for the second 500 flyers printed.
Sid had heard of something called a "dawn dance" in Vermont and had come up with the idea, while completing his Emory dissertation on festivals, of an all-night dawn dance on an upcoming April Fools' Eve at a camp near his NW Georgia home. He had the foolish idea that if you danced all night you wouldn't need a place to sleep, which the camp could not accomodate in large numbers except as tent campers. After mentioning it to Ann Snyder (now Whitney) at an Atlanta contra dance one Friday, she suggested he come to a CCD meeting the next morning, when any dancer could come and propose ideas and suggestions. After discussion, and after Sid rejected the name of "Fool on a Hill Festival" proposed by Dennis Edmiston, CCD leader Susan Davis gave the idea her support and asked Sid to form a committee for the event.
That previous November, a dozen or so CCD dancers had come to dance to recorded music and to check out the floor and camp space at Bonnie and Tommy Thomas' Hidden Hollow Camp, which Sid thought had a great dance floor and was just four miles from his home and two hours from Atlanta. The first FFDD sold out at 125 people. Yet our CCD committee lost money due to the cost of the food and three bands (Norman and Nancy Blake came over Lookout Mountain to play as surprise guest musicians). Later that Sunday, many came to Sid's house to rest and for a front porch jam, a tradition that continued for the next six years.
Everyone liked the Festival of Fools idea and place and the CCD asked Manuel Patino of Atlanta to chair the next five FFDDs, until he resigned the job after the 1995 dance. With no else volunteering to continue a FFDD in 1996 for the CCD, Sid decided to finance and expand it to a full weekend of the mixed dance genres he originally had in mind and moved it to his nearby Split Tree Farm with it's new plywood open dance pavilion, completed in 1994.. This move in 1996 was the impetus for him to invest in the open 60' x 36' pavilion to become sliding glass door enclosed and heated with a north deck. Finally the blue tarpaulins around it could be thrown away along with their sound of sails snapping with any light breeze. FF Dawn Dance was expanded to a weekend dance (without an all-night program because so few actually danced all night) with Ron Buchanan as Head Fool for 1996 and 1997. Larry Enlow of Atlanta Swamp Opera was 1998 Head Fool; Seth Tepfer was 1999 Head Fool--all Atlantans. Robert Cromartie of Chapel Hill, NC was 2000 Head Fool. In 2485, FF revenues were dedicated to finished insulating the studio roof and Sid acted as invisible head fool until normal FF programming could resume.
During the years at Split Tree the music has been expanded from mostly contra to include waltz, swing, cajun, tango, and contact improvisation. Norman and Nancy Blake, Atlanta Swamp Opera, Red Mountain White Trash, Bruce Lang trio, Misbehavin', Atomic City Rhythm Rascals, and other traditional regional bands and musicians, such as Bob Willoughby and Dan Bowles and Alan Dynin, have played during these years. In 2000, the national and versatile band Footloose was the only band, supplemented by Bob Willoughby on piano and Dan Bowles on trumpet. Other Split Tree FF flyers can be found in the link to previous weekends on the Home Page.
The price in 1990 was $12 for the dance with breakfast and $10 for available cabin beds. Then as now most people camped in tents. The committee members, as I remember them, were Atlanta contra dancers: Dennis Edmiston, John O'Neal, Steve Rose, Morning Washburn, Deb xxxx, Margie Usher, and others to be listed if we can remember them. The Head Fool idea came with the second FF, when Manual Patino agreed to head the organizing committee for Chattahoochee Country Dancers and continued the unique dance as head fool through 1995.
Update: 2/4/11--The last Fool's Fest weekend was in 2004 with Seth Tepfer at Head Fool; another is being considered, adapted to loss of the studio, home and barn, for April 1-3, 2011.
By Sid Hetzler, March 29, 2000
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